Take a look at this history guide of mens fashion throughout the years. We take a look at some of the best and worst periods in mens fashion and show you how to re-create some iconic looks.
Check out more Mens Style Guide features.
Menswear has seen its fair share of hits and misses. We have been through some rather eccentric trends and fads allowing us to come to this very present day in fashion. Whether you’re into the retro look, love the 80s with Adam Ant at the forefront of menswear or you like what you’ve got on today, we can all draw influence and ideas from the past and bring them into the present day.
Influences can come from anywhere, at the moment we’re going through a 70s revival with brands such as Gucci leading the way in this enormous trend. You only have to look at certain areas in London to realise people still draw influences form the past. The hipsters of Shoreditch and Brick Lane love to wear vintage, no matter what the decade and some of us still can’t part with our shoulder pads.
The roaring 20s is a decade that’s been copied no end of times for various television shoes and films. Films such as The Great Gatsby have epitomised this fantastic decade with all the glitz and glamour that is accustomed to it and the style is at its peak.
We have all seen how glamorous the women of the time could be, but where was the focus on the men? Men weren’t massively into what they were wearing, as long as it looked smart and presentable then that would do them fine. A few key influences that we still see today can be found in the 1920s menswear era. Wide legged trousers for instance were a point of hot topic – they were loose yet fitted at the waist. This created an overall larger affect with the illusion of longer legs.
- Lighter colours
- Double breasted suit jackets
- Wide legged trousers
- Straw Boater Hats (in the summer)
- Dickie Bow tie
Pre-war fashion was a little more stricter than its post-war counterparts. Men were to be seen dressed in a shirt and tie at all time, taking from my own experience, my father said that he never saw his grandad without a shirt and tie on, even at work in a factory. This restricted men from branching out and trying new things, but what we can still see today is the thickly knitted jumpers and flannel trousers that seemed to dominate at the time.
The wider leg was still massively in trend (it was way up until the 50s/ 60s) yet we did see it slim down, if only slightly. Flannel played a massive part s it had been used as a practical material for the working classes and had made its way up to the middle/ white collar classes.
- Darker colours
- Use of pinstripe
- Wing tip brogues
- Wide legged trousers (although slimmer from the previous decade)
- Wide brimmed trilby hats
As we all know during the war fashion wasn’t at its greatest, and for good reason. The people of the world had a lot more to worry about other than fashion, but that doesn’t stop us from drawing inspiration from these troubled times.
Darker colours and looser shapes played dominant during the 40s as clothes were built to last. Pictures of my grandad sitting in a field wearing a knitted vest, short sleeved shirt and shorts that were clearly a few sizes too big for him still lives in my memory. Clothes were made to be sustainable as the war carried on, plus, it was a time of sadness for many which reflected in the fashion.
- Even darker colours (greater use of earthier tones)
- Greater use of texture
- Knitted vests
- Trilby hats
The 50s was a style mix-up. Across the pond in America we saw that people were shaking off their post-war fashion and embracing a new world. Jeans were seen for the first time for purely style purposes and some of the biggest Hollywood icons reigned supreme on our television screens.
Icons sure as James Dean and Frank Sinatra paved the way for menswear. James, with his super laid-back attitude, championed the casual look; with a simple jeans and tee combination he epitomised style for the younger generation, and, made a classic without even realising. On the other hand we had Mr Sinatra who loved a more formal look. Always dressed up to the nines in a suit and tie he pioneered the classic look for the older generation during the 1950s. Either way, they were both classic look that can still be seen today.
- Leather biker jackets
- More relaxed
- More colour
The swinging 60s was a time of great reform in the menswear world. No longer were we constricted by tight fitting suits and boring colours – there was a style revolution going on, not only for the girls and their mini skirts, but for us boys too.
Colour played a massive role during this decade as designers showcased a style revolution which mirrored the politics of the time. Men could be seen to be more open and experimental with their clothing choices which lead to a gender bending phase which many admired.
- Brighter, yet earthier colours
- Tighter fitted clothes
- Slim line effect
- Heavy use of knits
- A lot more pattern
The 70s was a continuation of the 60s (not in that way), we continued to see the emergence of the psychedelia phenomenon with men wearing more outlandish colours and patterns to express themselves.
Flares and rather questionable haircuts seemed to dominate with high waistlines, which were cinched in, and platform shoes. Thankfully the platform shoe stayed in the 70s because if they were in now, I’d be one very tall person walking down Shoreditch High Street. This is decade that has been reproduced over the last few seasons with brands such as Gucci really making it a main stay in their collections with billowing shirts and flared trousers.
- Flared trousers
- Pastel tones
- Brighter, more intricate patterns
- High waistline
- Open collared shirts
- Platform shoes
Time to release those shoulder pads and have a back-up can of hairspray at the ready for this iconic decade. The 80s was a time of the glam-rocker and sub-cultures to boot, we saw many different types of fashion during this decade and here at Idle HQ we absolutely loved it, even if only a few of us were there to remember it.
The line between mens and women’s fashion was very blurred as we saw the two sexes come together over style. On one hand you had your punks and skin heads and on the other you had your new romantics, and, of course, theres the rest that were in between. An oversized torso and thin legs dominated as shoulder pads were placed in every jacket. The time of the glam-rocker was high as many tried to emulate their icons such as Steven Tyler from Areosmith and Joe Elliot from Def Leppard.
- A more casual vibe
- Lighter colours
- Focus on basics
- Oversized shapes
The 90s was a cracking decade, not only was I born but we had the emergence of the grunge scene. Many people who were teenagers in the 90s may like to forget this era, but for my generation this is a decade that has made a real revival in the past few years.
Bands such as Nirvana championed the grunge scene with teenagers from all corners of the globe ripping their jeans and sporting a plaid shirt. The oversized aesthetic was dominant as people’s ‘don’t care’ attitude shone through. This was also a time for subdued colours and washed out effects due to the high demand for worn looking clothing.
- Baggy jeans
- Washed out colour pallet
- Plaid shirts
- Emergence of grunge
- Overall baggy shape
On The Street
As soon as Big Ben chimed us in to a new millennium he also chimed us in to a new wave of style for men. Now this is a decade that I can’t bear, but I’m sure in a few years we’ll have teenagers wanting to emulate this particular decade, lord knows why.
This decade was all about the flashy side of life (you were no-one if you didn’t have a flip phone). This is the first time we had celebrities shoved in our faces through a screen whilst we sat at home and we devoured every morsel of it. As far as style comes into it men were very limited – we worked with boot cut jeans (please wear at your own risk) and printed T-shirts with some very questionable designs. It’s fair to say that this is a decade that I can’t see ever coming back into fashion, which means I’ll sleep better knowing this.
- Loud print
- Flared legs and sleeves
- Boxy shapes in the torso
- Boot cut jeans
And On That Note
Menswear has certainly has its fair share of ups and downs. However, we can still draw influence from decades gone to craft our own style and fashion. Taking a look at the 1920s and 30s with formality at its height, wide legged trousers and the insistence of a hat. We took a darker turn during the 1940s as war was rife and people had to worry about more important things other than fashion. Clothes were built to last with thick knits in jumpers and flannel trousers, and the colour pallet reflected the mood of the era.
We saw a revolution when it came to the 1950s, especially in America. Everything was modern and cutting edge as jeans were first used for fashion purposes. Icons such as James Dean and Frank Sinatra reigned supreme as thousands of men flocked to emulate their different styles. The 60s brought us a revolution of colour and freedom of expression. No longer were men required to wear a shirt and tie everywhere as pattern and colour were fully embraced.
The 1970s took the fashion of the 60s a step further as bold patterns and unusual shapes were dominant. Flares and open shirts became the new norm as men embraced the freedom that they had with fashion. During the 80s we saw fashion turn into sub-cultures, we had the punks and rockers, the new romantics and everything in between. Pastel colours and a wider shape up top made men look broader more masculine in the era of a feminine dominant fashion.
In the 90s we saw the emergence of the grunge scene with icons such as Kurt Cobain leading the pack when it came to this alternative look. Washed out colour pallets and oversized everything played a massive role as we moshed to Smells Like Teen Spirit. The 2000’s is an era that the least said about it the better. Bold and creative prints were dominant as we wore boxy and sometimes oversized clothes. Personally I’m glad that that decade is behind us, and with it the flip phone and MSN (R.I.P).